Mom Brain

March 4, 2018 | 11 Comments

I’m hesitant to generalise here, but I couldn’t think of a more catchy headline, so just bear with me. Because lately I’ve been starting to worry a bit about my memory. Not for the big important things, but more for the everyday smaller things. It’s not forgetting general life stuff, like R10 for civvies day, or must buy milk on the way home (although that happens too, obvs), it’s specifically related to people, experiences and conversations.

Here’s an example: say there is a mom you see outside the music room as you wait to pick up your kid. You chat occasionally and you actually kind of know each other, because you see each other for 5 minutes every few months or so. But then you see the same mom at gym, or out at a dinner, or in a corporate environment and you have a vague feeling that you know her, but you can’t for the life of you put your finger on where from. So you just introduce yourself again and then she says “yes of course I know you, I’m xxx’s mom” and then you feel doff and rude and many other non-good feelings.

Even worse is when that mom doesn’t say the above, and they just reintroduce themselves – and you begin the most ridiculous charade of pretending to meet each other (all over again), until the penny drops much later and you feel stupid. How there can be so little space in your head to remember people’s names, faces and their context? Maybe it’s part of getting older too, and simply having MORE experiences rammed inside your brain?

There are memories from childhood, school, university, travelling (did I meet them in London? Do I know them from that Kontiki trip to Spain?). Did I meet them in this job, or at this job? Are they from Kid 1’s school or Kid 2’s? We’ve changed cities, moved schools and switched classes multiple times, so can I be blamed for not remembering exactly who is who and where they are from?

Maybe I can though, because there are some people that are very good at it. I have friends who can recall exact conversations, outfits and events that are well over 20 years old: “Remember that time at the U2 concert when I was wearing those red pants, and you had on that green tracksuit top with the stripes, and there was this weird guy called Phil and we had to try lose him at the bar?”. “Um no, all I remember is that I went to a U2 concert some time when I was 18 and it was fun”.

Do we all have different capacity for memory? Maybe some of us remember emotions better, while others never forget a face? My mother-in-law for instance, can spot someone walking past her in a shopping mall that she knew over 30 years ago and say “There’s Jenny de Villiers from Oakhurst Road! We used to play tennis when the kids were little (she had an excellent serve), ok I’m going to say hi”. Now I imagine Jenny looks quite different now, but my mother-in-law never gets it wrong.

I’ve had quite meaningful conversations with people and then afterwards realised that I don’t know their names. Do I ask them next time I see them? Do I ask a mutual friend? When does it become awkward? Shall I carry around a little notebook and scribble context in there, i.e under M for Music Room, start writing down snippets of conversation and names and descriptions: “Maria, long dark hair, mother to Sophie, works in banking, likes to trail run on weekends”.

The reason it makes me anxious is that we all know that feeling when you meet someone that you must have met about 4 or 5 times, and they stubbornly don’t remember you at all. It makes you feel invisible and unimportant. Completely forgettable. I don’t want to be the person causing those feelings in others.

Another added layer of complexity to the above issue is this whole blogging thing. It doesn’t happen a lot but sometimes I’ll meet someone at a party or event and they’ll know me from social media or blogging – but I won’t know them. They will be super friendly and warm, which is wonderful, but I’ll have no clue who they are, and whether they are actually mom of a kid at school, or someone I met at work, or a mutual friend I met a few times before at a braai.

The whole thing makes my brain whirl around in not very neat patterns. I simply feel like I’m holding so much up there in my brain cells (work, parenting, life) that clearly some names, conversations and memories get booted out, before they have time to settle in my head.

Do any of you experience a similar issue? How do you counteract it? Send advice!








  • Reply Pandora March 4, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    That’s me. All the time! If someone says hi while we are out, and I don’t have a clue who it is I’ll ask my daughter if she knows them. If not, then it excludes school and church at least. I’ve spent weekends with people on company trips, and then months later I’ll be asking my husband who they are. It’s embarrasing. Yet I have the lyrics to thousands of songs in my head. I think it’s just the way I’m wired. So no advice, sorry.

  • Reply Kit March 5, 2018 at 7:48 am

    Yup me too. No real advice, but sometimes if you can get in at the beginning that you are terrible with names, then they’ll admit the same and you’re then fine to redo introductions. The worst is when the other mum not only remembers your name but also your kids names, and you can barely remember having met them before. Happened to me at the last fundraiser I helped at. Had to bluff my way there.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain March 5, 2018 at 8:18 am

      Yes! They are asking all about your daughter and her hobbies and you can’t even remember their name – it’s terrible.

  • Reply robynrose March 5, 2018 at 9:03 am

    OMG B you know me, I literally don’t remember people from my own class at school. I have no idea of most peoples names and sometimes don’t even remember faces. I reckon you make up for it when you act in a genuine way and converse sincerely for the rest of the conversation. I think that matters. Because in THAT moment, that person feels validated and seen. People are forgiving I think.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain March 5, 2018 at 9:18 am

      I hope so Robs! My interactions are always genuine, so there’s that!

  • Reply loukatblack March 5, 2018 at 9:25 am

    It’s TOTALLY a thing B! I used to have an amazing memory – not so much for dates and facts but I never forgot a face or a name and I could remember exactly where I met the person. Now… It’s exactly as you’ve described above. I even try the Dale Carnegie trick: when you meet a person, really listen to their name and then associate it with something to make you remember. For example, I met someone the other day called Dylan so I associated his name with music and Bob Dylan. Easypeasy. But no… Saw him the other day again and instead of saying “Hi Dylan”, I’m kind of standing there looking at him trying to remember why I associated his name with a man singing “Hey Mr Tambourine Man”…

    • Reply Belinda Mountain March 5, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      ha Lou I’m not sure whether this tip is worth pursuing now!

  • Reply caleyjaderosenberg March 5, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Haha, I love this title and it is so true for so many!! I have a crazy memory for some reason so this doesn’t get me much but rather EVERYONE that I know!! x

    • Reply Belinda Mountain March 6, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      Where are your memory tips you lucky woman?!! Or do you think it’s just something some have and others don’t?

  • Reply stephanie videira March 8, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    this is me to a tea, used to have a great memory but since motherhood hit don’t know if its lack of exhaustion or what but know cant remember the simplest of things also not to sure what to do about must be some vitamins we can take to help

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